The basic requirements for happiness are within reach: the offering and receipt of love, shelter of some sort, nourishment, clothing to protect from the elements and the delicate sensibilities of the easily offended. And, perhaps as concerns my baseline needs, I cannot be happy unless I am on some mission, physical or otherwise. Stripped down to the bare materials of life, we can live contentedly with very, very little. My reveries are often of an exquisitely simple existence: a small, warm cabin from which I can ski tour, just enough duct tape to keep my kit in order, a ready supply of books, someone to cuddle.
But, in reality, I am no ascetic. My imagined proclivity for monastic methods is belied not only by my aversion to celibacy, but by my prodigious appetites for gourmet cuisine, for dope fashion, for trick gear, for all of the minor and massive ways that this life gains its excitement, its texture, its sheer and encompassing beauty. I have incredible levels of respect for those whose joy is not tied in any manner to material goods and services. At various points, I have subsisted in certain levels of deprivation, can survive mostly happily in that milieu. But, while I can do lowbrow, I am not ashamed to admit that I like to be fancy too.
My inability to settle for the purely elemental is one of my many personal failings. It would be perhaps more appropriate, more mature for me to adopt a professional and/or personal uniform of bland attire. Certainly, most lawyers do not show up to court in bow ties and cobalt blue suits and matching fingernail polish. My preparation and focus is not tied to my threads, but in litigation, where success is gained in the margins, I want to manifest myself as a force of nature. Colorful, well-fitting clothes help me project that persona: there is nothing more of nature than a peacock.
Zen principles teach us that the typical trappings of life are largely an illusion, that it is by stripping away all of the distractions that we are able to obtain nirvana. This ideal resonates with me deeply, but I cannot help but be seduced by its counterpoint, by the array of aesthetic temptations. Yes, a slab of meat and a baked potato or a plain cheeseburger and fries are marvelous meals, but so too are the culinary treasures of the highest gastronomic temples, those dishes that make the heart race, that cause one to gasp with their bold use of ingredients and technique. An accurate drawing gets the point across, but it does not bowl one over as does a Matisse. I am not satisfied unless I am gobsmacked.
I should be content to muddle along, to appreciate the plain moments that comprise the vast majority of my days, but I seek so much more. It is worth the inevitable disappointments, the dead ends, the lack of inspirations to discover those sights that will short circuit my synapses, stop me dead in my tracks, render me unable to look anywhere else, haunt my vision even when I am asleep. In the grand scheme, the way that these objects, items, people look should be unimportant. And yet, I am powerfully drawn to the stunning and the sublime.
This is not a completely superficial fascination. While my viewpoint does elevate looks higher than most are willing to admit, beauty without substance is anathema to me. But, just like all of the other facets of my life, I do not see why I need to compromise: I want it all.